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The problem with liberalism

by Duncan Stephen     December 13, 2007 at 1:00 pm

What do you think the word ‘liberal’ means?

Perhaps if you are American, you are thinking of what Europeans call social democrats. Maybe some Europeans think of it as some kind of wishy-washy centrism that can’t decide between left and right. In certain countries it may have something to do with a pro-business approach. If you’re Australian it probably means the same as conservative.

A pre-condition of liberalism might be the existence of free markets. Or maybe liberalism is to do with equality of some kind or another. Animal rights? Environmentalism? [insert trendy cause here]? Smith, Mill or Kant? Etc, etc. It seems to me that the word ‘liberal’ is about as useful as words like ‘that’ and ‘thingy’.

As such, it wasn’t really a surprise that Liberal Conspiracy provoked some debate about the nature of liberalism when it was launched a month or so back. “My liberalism is more liberal than yours” and that type of thing.
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